Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Daring Bakers: Battenberg Cake

This month Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! challenged us to make a  Battenberg Cake. She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.  Well that was the idea anyway - mine was not exactly created with ease.

The first thing you might want to know is what is a Battenberg Cake?  I know I had no idea.  Well Mandy tells us this about the origins of the Battenberg Cake:

The first Battenberg cake was made to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Victoria, to husband Prince Louis of Battenberg. It’s traditionally flavored with almond and has the signature Battenberg markings, that is, the yellow and pink squares (said to represent the four princes of Battenberg).

Well Mandy's cakes looked gorgeous and I had high hopes of doing the same.  I had never worked with the marzipan that covers the cake before but I have done fondant cakes which are similar.  My first mistake was waiting too long.  I waited until two days before it was supposed to be done to try making the marzipan.  I tried doing a cooked marzipan recipe that Mandy provided for us.  It seemed easy enough but even when I had added all the liquid that it told us we might not need - the marzipan was still a crumbly, oily mess.

Well I posted on The Daring Kitchen website about my issues and Mandy came to the rescue.  She said I could just blend in a little more water, and if it got too wet I could add some more confectioners sugar.  I added the water and sure enough, I think I added too much.  Problem number 2 - I just ran out of confectioners sugar and I only have two hours before I have to get this done.  Quick cook the cake - no problems there.

Back to the marzipan.  I decided to make my own confectioners sugar.  I put a bunch of sugar in my food processor and process away.  Well I don't seem to be able to get it quite fine enough but I decide to use it anyway to help thicken the marzipan.  The marzipan gets better but I am sure it still wasn't right.  Just not firm enough to work with and it decides to stretch and tear when I try to cover the cake.
As for the results.  You can see from the picture it is not spectacular looking.  The marzipan is sagging and probably too thick.  The cake was marvelous - came out perfectly.  The marzipan tasted fabulous - just a tiny bit gritty from too course sugar I used.

This was a fun challenge but I sure need to allow myself more time for this kind of challenge.  I will definitely be taking another shot at marzipan sometime in the future.  If you would like to try making a Battenberg cake you can find the recipe I used along with others at The Daring Kitchen recipe archive.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Daring Cooks: Cannelloni

Manu from Manu’s Menu was our Daring Cooks lovely June hostess and has challenged us to make traditional Italian cannelloni from scratch! We were taught how to make the pasta, filling, and sauces shared with us from her own and her family’s treasured recipes!

The first thing Manu did in this months challenge was to set up straight on what cannelloni is and what manicotti is.  In Italy Manu had never even heard of manicotti.  Wikipedia says : “Cannelloni is often erroneously referred to as manicotti (Italian: sleeves) (English pronunciation: /ˌmænɨˈkɒtiː/), which is actually a filled Italian dinner crepe, as opposed to pre-rolled pasta.[1] While manicotti and cannelloni are sometimes used interchangeably in preparing non-traditional versions of some dishes, in traditional Italian cooking cannelloni are made with pasta and manicotti with a specialized crepe pan, and the two have particular uses. Although both terms are plural nouns in Italian, the English term is often construed as singular, particularly when used as the name of the dish.”.  So I guess this means I have probably never made or even had manicotti but I have had cannelloni.

Now that that is straight, I have made cannelloni in the past, but I made it with store bought noodles.  This challenge would give me a chance to make the whole thing from scratch.  I went for the simple "Cannelloni di carne" because that is what I knew my family would like.  The recipe had a bunch of parts but they were all easy to put together.  You have to make the filling, two sauces, and the pasta itself.  The parts were all very simple with only a few ingredients in each.  I think this is the first Italian recipe I have made that did not even require any garlic - not sure how I feel about that.

I do have a pasta machine and I think that probably does make things easier - or at least allow the pasta to be thinner.  The noodles are very thin, much thinner than a store-bought noodle.  They cook in just a minute. You would think they would be delicate being so thin but I had no issues at all working with them - they held a lot of the meat filling without tearing at all.

The results were fantastic.  I don't often make my own pasta but every time I do I think I should do it more often.  The cannelloni noodle was so thin and was almost crepe like.  The filling was just what you would from a real Italian recipe - not too fancy - just good stuff and lots of it.

Now that I have said how easy this was I must confess there was one part that made this a very difficult challenge.  Take a thin floppy long noodle and fill it as full as you can get it with meat and cheese.  Then top with a tomato sauce and on top of that put a white sauce.  It looks beautiful - right?  Now how do you take some of those out and put them on a plate and have them still look beautiful - sauce and cheese everywhere.

Thanks for the challenge Manu and thanks for sharing the family recipes.  If you would like to check out this and the other fillings she recommends you can find them on the Daring Kitchen recipe archive.